EDITORIAL: Give Oak Harbor its money back

Somewhere within the bowels of the Federal Highway Administration is a bureaucrat who penciled out $200,000 from the Department of Transportation’s budget. That money was destined for Oak Harbor, having already been approved by Congress and the president of the United States.

Oak Harbor in January received the good news that $200,000 had been approved and could be used for work on the proposed city pier. The use had to be ferry-related, as the money came from something called the Ferry Boat Discretionary Program.

Whether Oak Harbor would ever use the money had not yet been determined. At this point, the $3 million pier is not funded, but it is a top priority among Oak Harbor’s leaders. Construction likely can’t start for at least two years, but when it does the $200,000 could be used for dredging or building a ferry waiting area.

Whidbey Islanders are hoping for a passenger-only ferry that will make scheduled stop in Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Langley on its way to the mainland. Without a dock in Oak Harbor, it’ll never happen. So it made sense to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Rick Larsen that Oak Harbor get what amounts to spare change in the federal transportation budget to help the project along.

The bureaucrat who nixed the money after it was approved complained that there was no guarantee of ferry service, so the money was improperly allocated. But since when have bureaucrats been able to overrule the will of Congress and the president? It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. We can’t have ferry service without a dock, but we can’t have a dock without ferry service. It makes perfect sense for Congress to help with a dock that is needed to make ferry service possible.

Murray and Larsen have gone over this particular bureaucrat’s head by appealing the decision to Secretary of Transportation Norm Maneta. If he doesn’t give the money back, perhaps we should stop all federal spending on anything that isn’t a sure thing. That should reduce the federal budget by about nine-tenths.

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